"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Sunday, May 13, 2007

These Days

In my younger days (high school and college), I was really into music (all pop culture generally, but music in particular). I think I shocked my 11th grade high school English teacher, who used to write quotes on the board that we had to copy down and occasionally pick one for an essay. He began writing one morning,
"I've seen the needle and damage done.
The little part of it in everyone.
But every junkie's like the setting sun."
I leaned over to a friend of mine and finished the quote before the teacher finished writing. He turned around when he was done and, somewhat incredulously, asked if I knew the song (Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done" off of the "Harvest" album; arguably Mr. Young's best work). I wasn't exactly the kid you would expect to be a Neil Young fan. I was one of those kids that you would have expected to never have his nose out of a science fiction novel or a comic book (somewhat true, at that).

One artist, out of many, that I would buy every time he released something new was Jackson Browne. While probably not considered as artistic as a Neil Young, Browne likewise tended to a more philosophical lyrical content, but at a more introspective and less social turn than Neil Young. This is particularly true of Browne's work up to and including "Running on Empty" (after which he began to take a more political bent musically. He had always been something of an activist, but with the election of Ronald Reagan, his activism started to increasingly infiltrate his music).

On an early album ("For Everyman") there was a song called "These Days." We are attracted, I think, to music that either reflects something within us, or calls us to something to which we aspire. "These Days" was the former for me, particularly in the closing line, which states:
"Don't confront me with my failures;
I had not forgotten them."
I have a tendency to dwell on the past. Particularly on things that remind me just how fallen I am.

Why bring this up? Because I want to reflect on the power of the Gospel. In the book of Hebrews, the author tells us that under the Old Covenant "gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper" (ESV Hebrews 9:9). I would argue that this is true not only of the Old Covenant sacrifices, but any religious activity that man undertakes. It fails to deal with our guilty conscience. So we seek other things (sex, drugs, and rock&roll) to blunt our own recognition of guilt.

Let me quote another artist who I've quoted before on this issue:
"There's a void in my heart
I can't seem to fill.
I do charity work when I believe in the cause,
But my soul it bothers me still.
Hey Lord you can make me like I am,
Can you heal this restlessness?
Or will there be a void in my heart
When they carry me out to rest?"
That's from a song titled "Void in My Heart" from John Mellencamp's "Big Daddy" CD. This also includes the lines:
"As I sit alone tonight
I see a billion just like me.
With a void in their hearts,
And running from eternity."
Not surprisingly, on the back of one CD ("The Lonesome Jubilee" I think) Mellencamp had the first chapter of Ecclesiastes reproduced.

There is only one answer to this guilt and void. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel tells us that Jesus has removed our guilt by being the once for all sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 10:1-23). Note especially in contrast to Hebrews 9:9 that in 10:22 we are told, "let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." The Gospel, rightly understood, cleanses our guilty conscience and fill the void in our heart.

We, even we Christians, must continually preach the Gospel to ourselves for this to be true. Especially those of us who are prone to reflect back on past mistakes and dwell on them. One of the most comforting passages for me in this regard is the close of the book of Micah (chapter 7). A proclamation that one day God would deal with our sin, and not by punishing us.
18 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over transgression
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
from the days of old.
At the cross, the burden falls from our back and we are free. All our sins, not just part - not everything but that one thing we can't let go of - all our sins are tossed by God into the depths of the sea. So deep that no submersible can ever reach them. They are gone forever. For "there is now therefore no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus!"

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Blogger Even So... said...

Excellent post...

Rust Never Sleeps...you crazy horse...

9:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

"Don't confront me with my failures;
I had not forgotten them."

I sat with a gentleman Thursday night who was stuck in kind of a blue funk, feeling depressed about his moral failures. There were three of us at the table, all Christians. The one guy though, seemed unable to share our joy as we talked about the wonderful attributes of God. We even had a time of prayer afterwards, but I think his attention was never drawn up to the throne of grace.

I hope he has snapped out of it, realizing that he does not need to go around, hopelessly carrying this load of guilt on his own shoulders.

1:59 PM EDT  
Blogger Taliesin said...

There are those believers, even well known ones like William Cowper and, apparently, Charles Spurgeon, who struggle with "depression" (back then I think it was called "melancholy") through most of their life. Even some of the Psalms reflect a darkness of heart (especially 88). But what a witness to be able to joyfully proclaim the Lord's forgiveness. I, too, hope your friend has found the joy of his salvation.

As J.D. can probably attest, southern men especially need to be free of this burden, as they apparently have "the rest of the union's weight on [their] back."

6:44 PM EDT  
Blogger Even So... said...

I hope Neil Young will remember, a southern man don't... , .

8:52 AM EDT  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

(Southern men) have "the rest of the union's weight on [their] back."

Hey, whatever happened to "He ain't heavy; he's my brother?"

Besides, I'm in shape... round is a shape.

2:30 PM EDT  

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